Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Former astronaut wows crowd at Tampa convention center

Mae Jemison, in 1992, when she became the first African-American woman in space.

Associated Press

Mae Jemison, in 1992, when she became the first African-American woman in space.

TAMPA — Moments after Dr. Mae C. Jemison stepped on stage Thursday morning at the Tampa Convention Center, she had the audience hanging on her every word.

The former NASA astronaut and first African-American woman in space spoke to nearly 4,300 people about empowerment and racial and gender issues in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs. She talked about her life and what led to her success. She joked about appearing in a Star Trek episode.

Jemison laughed with the crowd while encouraging students of all races and genders to pursue science literacy.

"Why is STEM important?" she asked. "Because it changes our lives, and it's important for everyone to be involved, to be diverse. We need the full scale of human skills."

Jemison's 45-minute speech opened the 28th National Association of Independent Schools' People of Color Conference. The 1,600 students in the crowd had streamed into Tampa from all over the country. They came from different places — New York, Oregon, Rhode Island — but they were all in the room for the same reason: to be inspired and make social change.

"It was exciting to see one of my childhood heroes talk," Tomiwa Sobande, 16, said. "She emphasized our own self-esteem, and just learning to say, 'I'm here, listen to me.' "

Maryland student Malaika Ngwana, 17, said Jemison's speech made her feel powerful enough to start making changes now.

"Why be extraordinary tomorrow when you can do amazing things today?" she said. "We go back home 1,600 voices strong. We're not alone in this."

But more than just students were affected by Jemison's speech. Teachers, directors and school leaders were fired up, too.

"I feel like the world is going to be okay because we have such amazing people trying to make change," said Danae Howe, a dean at a girls school in Pasadena, Calif.

"The students are going to come back to school like they're at the starting line of the 100 yard dash at the Olympic race," she said. "They're ready to go and they're ready to make change."

Contact Hanna Marcus at hmarcus@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374. Follow @hmarcus.

Former astronaut wows crowd at Tampa convention center 12/03/15 [Last modified: Thursday, December 3, 2015 9:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: Arcade Fire open hearts, play with passion at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa

    Blogs

    Gloves off, hearts open and disco balls glittering, Arcade Fire scaled the stage for the first time ever in Tampa, pouncing and flailing and performing with all the passion that’s made them one of the world’s most celebrated rock bands this century.

    Arcade Fire performed at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa on Sept. 22, 2017.
  2. Lightning's Steven Stamkos looks close to top form in first game since November

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The wait felt like forever for Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, having gone 10 months without playing in a game.

    A scramble in front of the Lightning goal has Matthew Peca, far left, and Erik Cernak, middle, helping out goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy during the third period of a 3-1 win against the Predators. Vasilevskiy, who made 29 saves, was “exceptional,” coach Jon Cooper says.
  3. Rays journal: Alex Cobb may have pitched last game in Rays uniform (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — RHP Alex Cobb pitched well enough to lead the Rays to an 8-3 win over the Orioles on Friday.

    Wilson Ramos gives thanks after hitting a grand slam during the second inning, putting the Rays up 4-0.
  4. Steven Souza Jr. vindicating big trade for Rays

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — There was a time when the three-team, 11-player transaction the Rays orchestrated to get Steven Souza Jr. from the Nationals looked liked a bad deal.

    The Rays’ Steven Souza Jr. has 30 home runs this season while improving his defense and baserunning but wants to improve on his .236 batting average.
  5. Fennelly: Lightning's Manon Rheaume made history 25 years ago Saturday

    Lightning Strikes

    The name is part of Lightning history, hockey history, sports history.

    Lightning goalie Manon Rheaume became the first woman to play in an NHL game 25 years ago today.